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eritrean migrants in sudanThe UNHCR spokesperson said none of those intercepted in northern Sudan while heading towards the Libyan border to reach Europe are asylum seekers and Sudan may be within its legal right to pursue deportation of these Eritrean migrants from its territory. (Photo: Maram Mazen IRIN)

By Kristy Siegfried | for IRIN,

Authorities in Sudan have launched a crackdown on Eritrean migrants – arresting those living in the capital, Khartoum, and intercepting hundreds travelling north through the country towards Libya, the launching point for smugglers’ boats heading for Europe.


Reports that 900 Eritreans were rounded up in Khartoum on Monday and that a further 400 arrested en route to Libya have been deported to Eritrea, come amid recent revelations in the British and German media that the EU is planning to deepen its cooperation with a number of African countries, including Sudan and Eritrea, to stem migration towards Europe.

Kibrom (not his real name), a 16-year-old Eritrean refugee who used the route through Sudan and Libya to reach Europe in 2015, told IRIN that his twin sister was among a group of 130 Eritreans captured by Sudanese soldiers in the town of Dongola, about halfway between Khartoum and the Libyan border, earlier this month.

“I passed the same way. When we were travelling, we had to bribe the police. My sister used the same smuggler, but when he tried to bribe the police, it didn’t work,” he said.

Kibrom’s sister, along with the rest of the group, were taken to a prison in Khartoum where they spent three days. Kibrom said he tried to alert the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, but failed to make contact.

“Only the Eritrean Embassy was informed. They took them in an open truck at night time to the Eritrean border,” he said. “From there they were taken to a prison located in my city – Tesseney.”

Leaving Eritrea without permission is a criminal offense and Kibrom is extremely concerned about his sister, who was trying to evade military conscription, as well as his mother and two younger brothers who are still living in Tesseney.

“My mother can’t even try to see my sister or she will be arrested as well,” he told IRIN over the phone from Sweden where he has applied for asylum. “I’m so worried what’s going to happen to them.”

A spokesperson with UNHCR’s office in Khartoum confirmed that a number of migrants, including Eritreans, had been intercepted in northern Sudan heading towards the Libyan border. Of those being held at the Aliens Detention Centre in Khartoum, UNHCR had only identified six individuals who had previously sought asylum and been recognized as refugees.

None of those six had been deported and the spokesperson did not comment on the other deportations but said:

“If an individual does not apply for asylum through the channels provided and subsequently does not express a wish to seek asylum, Sudan may be within its legal right to pursue deportation of irregular migrants from its territory.

“For UNHCR, the principle prohibiting forcible returns or non-refoulement only takes centre stage when the affected individuals are persons of concern to UNHCR, which does not appear to be the case in this particular instance.”

It is unclear whether UNHCR had access to all of the Eritreans detained in Khartoum prior to their deportation. Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean activist based in Sweden who has been in touch with the relatives of some of the deportees, told IRIN that another group of around 300 Eritreans arrested while making their way to Libya were deported last Friday.

Sudan has a prior record of deporting Eritreans without allowing them access to asylum procedures, a practice that UNHCR has condemned in the past as amounting to refoulement.

Increased Border Controls

In addition to the arrests of migrants in Sudan, Estefanos said there has also been a noticeable increase in controls on the Eritrean side of the Sudan-Eritrea border in the last two months. “Leaving Eritrea to Sudan is becoming hard now,” she told IRIN. “People are being intercepted and sent back.”

Last year, a UN inquiry found evidence that Eritrea is a totalitarian state responsible for “systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations” including a system of indefinite national service that amounts to forced labour.

Eritrean soldiers are instructed to shoot at anyone they discover trying to leave the country illegally, a policy that hasn’t prevented thousands from fleeing across the border every month. While the majority of Eritreans remain in camps in Sudan and Ethiopia, over 70,000 applied for asylum in Europe during 2014 and 2015, according to EuroStat figures.



GENEVA (23 May 2016) – Ahead of the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Independence of Eritrea on Tuesday 24 May, the United Nations expert Sheila B. Keetharuth, urges the Eritrean Government to implement the 1997 Constitution.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea also calls on all Eritreans to fully embrace democracy and the rule of law to achieve the vision established on 24 May 1991.

“The 25th Independence Anniversary celebration provides Eritreans with an opportunity to reflect on the aspirations and dreams of those who fought for independence.

The 1997 Constitution sets out the vision of what Eritrea wanted to be as a country and yet it remains unimplemented to date. As the country reaches 25 years, this constitutional vacuum provides room for arbitrariness in managing the affairs of the State and engaging with its citizens. 

The independence of the country, that is, the national independence should match with individual independence and freedoms: freedom of conscience, thought, mind and expression; freedom to engage in employment and education of one’s own choice.

At 25, Eritrea needs to take decisive steps to embed democracy and the rule of law in the country. Such a move would advance respect for human rights, while further empowering the people and bridging the gaps between aspirations and reality. I call on the Government to do more to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and to establish the rule of law.

I salute the heroism and courage of all those women and men who struggled for their freedom and fought for their country’s independence. I also acknowledge the determination of those who are still engaged in preserving such hard-won freedom.”

Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea during the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012.  She took her functions on 1 November 2012.  As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity.  A lawyer from Mauritius, she has extensive experience in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, advocacy, training and litigation in human rights in Africa. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/ER/Pages/SREritrea.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Eritrea: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ERIndex.aspx

For press inquiries and additional information, please contact Ms. Françoise Mianda (+41 22 917 92 50 / ) or write to

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / )

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- See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20001&LangID=E#sthash.IHr2wlfh.dpuf


GenevaConferencepic 4

Over the past two days, Thursday and Friday, a small group of activists and researchers on Eritrean studies gathered in Geneva with the aim of stocktaking on the post-independence experience of Eritrea (on the occasion of the country’s 25th year of independence). A conference like this should have ideally taken place in Eritrea. As is known to many, due to the sad political reality in Eritrea, this was not possible; thus, the conference had to take place in exile. The conference featured a very proactive engagement, lively discussions, and most of all civilized discourse among participants. Given Eritrea’s highly polarized political landscape, and the fact that some of the speakers at the conference subscribe to fundamentally divergent views with those of others, did not come as an obstacle for a civilized discourse (as some observers may have anticipated).

In the afternoon hours of Thursday, the 19th of May, we had an Opening Speech by Mr. Manuel Tornare, Member of the Swiss Parliament (National Council) and former Major of Geneva, among other things. This was followed by a Panel Discussion with Tanja Müller, Selam Kidane and Salih Nur (with Daniel R. Mekonnen as moderator and discussant). In the evening hours, there was a Welcoming Dinner for presenters, speakers and invited guests.

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On Friday, the 20th of May, we had the following presentations:

Mother Tongue versus Arabic: The Post-Independence Eritrean Language Policy Debate, by Abdulkader Saleh M Ohammad
Eritrea’s Wrong Start in 1991: How It Contributed to Where and What It is Today, by
Wolde Ammar
Authoritarian Resilience in Eritrea: The Dual Role of Nationalism, by
Goitom Gebreluel & Daniel R. Mekonnen (presented by Daniel)
Dynamics of Post-liberation Politics – Interrogating Aspirations and Political Space in Eritrea, by Tanja R. Müller
Making Sense of Post-independence Eritrea: A Late African Postcolonial State or a Misunderstood African Exceptionalism?, by
Salih Nur
Civil Society Space in Post-Independence Eritrea, by
Wegahtabrhan Sereke
By Way of Patriotism, Coercion or Instrumentalisation: How the Eritrean Regime Makes Use of the Diaspora to Stabilise its Rule, by
Nicole Hirt & Abdulkader Saleh Mohammad
Collective Trauma: A Major Component of the Eritrean Refugee Crisis, by
Selam Kidane
Legal Battles in Eritrean Transnational Communities, by
Tricia Redeker Hepner & Daniel R. Mekonnen (presented by Daniel)
Leaving Eritrea and Looking for a Safe Haven: Reflections from the Experiences of Eritrean Refugees in Selected Eritrean Diaspora Communities, by
Sadia Hassanen & Beyan Negash (partly presented in the form of a video presentation of Sadia)

The above contributions will make part of a forthcoming conference proceeding (edited volume) that will be refined in the coming months. Other contributors who showed initial interest in participating at the conference but were not able to make it to Geneva have also submitted full version papers that shall make part of the forthcoming edited volume. These include Gaim Kibreab’s “The Military in Post-Independence Eritrea” and Joseph Venosa’s “Liberating Eritrea from Abroad: Diaspora Activism on the eve of Eritrea’s War of Independence, 1958-62.”

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The successful finalization of the conference would not have materialized without the active participation and involvement of everyone who played a role in different ways, and in particular the presenters, speakers, commentators and funders. As Convener of the Conference, I am deeply indebted to all of these stakeholders. While the conference may have had its own limitations in some ways, on balance, I am glad to see it coming to fruition the way it did. My effort of the last several months (starting from October 2015) has paid off satisfactorily, thanks to all who have helped in many ways, some of whom are already tagged in this posting; others are unfortunately not on Facebook. Some more colleagues, whose names I see on Facebook, and who deserve a word of thanks include the following: Michael Guggenheimer, Veronica Almedom, and Awet Kidane.

GenevaConferencepic 1

Den 24 maj 1991 är mycket speciell dag för Eritreaner. När vi firar/minns denna dag, så tänker vi på många saker. En del av tankarna och verkligheten som vi kommer att tänka är följande:

-          24:e maj förverkligade drömmen om fritt Eritrea, och slutade den långa lidande av beväpnadekampen för friheten.

-          24 maj var starten för nytt dröm liv för Eritreaner.

-          24 maj var starten för de lidande som eritreanska befolkningen befinner sig i.

-          Om 24:e maj 1991 inte hade hänt med alla dessa händelser, vad skulle vi ha gjort det?

Med utgångspunkten som ovan nämnda och mycket annat tankar, så ska vi tillsammans fira, minnas och blicka fram och tillbaka med vad det innebär den 24 maj 1991 för oss Eritreaner, i Eggebygård (Tensta) i Järvafältet – Järva folkets Park den 28 maj 2016 KL. 19:00 - .

Här med skickar vi Eritreanska Socialdemokrater (Eritreanska S-föreningen) inbjudan till Er alla som vill fira tillsammans, 25 års Eritreas självständighet.


  1. Sport aktiviteter/fotboll match mellan ungdoms klubbar i Rinkeby idrotts Plats (Mellan kl. 10:00 – 16:00).
  2. Information/pratstund om självständighet, vad måste göras för att komma ut ur stagnationen med de eritreanska politiska frågor och annat som hör hemma till dagensagenda.
  3. Att välkomna de nyanlända eritreanska flyktingar det senaste året. Information om integration i Sverige - från Socialdemokratiska politiker.
  4. Kultur utbytte/kultur kväll – Musik.
  5. Mat och dryck finns.

De som vill ha mera information så kan ni kontakta följande telefon nummer. Eritreanska S-Föreningen, Tel: 070-7223287 - 073-5515638 – 070-4306169

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Med vänliga hälsningar,

Eritreanska S-Föreningen,

Obs: Vi kommer att skicka mera Information fram över: via sms, publicmedia och annat.             

Eritrean Orthodox cross

On Thursday, 19 May, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) will join Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Release Eritrea, the Evangelical Alliance, Church in Chains and the British Orthodox Church to protest the continuing repression in Eritrea.

The Eritrean government is one of the most repressive regimes in the world and produces many of the world's refugees. Tens of thousands of Eritreans of all faiths and none have been detained without trial or charge, often in such makeshift facilities as shipping containers, or are simply held in open air pens in the desert.

CSW says: "Join us on 19 May, the 14th anniversary of the start of severe restrictions on churches, to let the world know we haven't forgotten about Eritrea.|

Follow @CSW_UK on Twitter and the hashtag #freeeritrea for updates.

The Eritrea Protest Vigil 2016 takes place on Thursday 19 May, from 3.30-4.15pm, opposite the Eritrean Embassy, 96 White Lion St, London N1 9PF




London: Protest vigil for Eritrea
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Eritrean Orthodox cross

On Thursday, 19 May, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) will join Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Release Eritrea, the Evangelical Alliance, Church in Chains and the British Orthodox Church to protest the continuing repression in Eritrea.

The Eritrean government is one of the most repressive regimes in the world and produces many of the world's refugees. Tens of thousands of Eritreans of all faiths and none have been detained without trial or charge, often in such makeshift facilities as shipping containers, or are simply held in open air pens in the desert.

CSW says: "Join us on 19 May, the 14th anniversary of the start of severe restrictions on churches, to let the world know we haven't forgotten about Eritrea.|

Follow @CSW_UK on Twitter and the hashtag #freeeritrea for updates.

The Eritrea Protest Vigil 2016 takes place on Thursday 19 May, from 3.30-4.15pm, opposite the Eritrean Embassy, 96 White Lion St, London N1 9PF



May 12, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopia authorities said Thursday that they foiled what they described as a "plot" by Eritrean mercenaries to stage a terror attack in the country.

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Eritrea, which borders Sudan and Ethiopia, has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa (HRW)

The National Intelligence and Security Service and Federal counter-terrorism taskforce claimed the armed Eritrea’s mercenaries were caught by Ethiopian security forces in the country’s southern regional state.

The heavy armed mercenaries were captured in a jungle at the southern tip of the country and were conspiring to launch a terrorist attack.

According to the task force, they were captured in a surprise military operation carried out by security forces on 6 May 2016.

Officials told Sudan Tribune that the Ethiopian intelligence agency had the information over the planned attack before the armed mercenaries depart from Eritrea.

According to the officials security forces captured most of the terrorists with their armaments however refuse to disclose on their total number.

Unspecified number of the armed group who tried to escape were also killed.

The terrorists whose travel documents shows to have been prepared by the Eritrean regime traversed Ethiopian borders from Moyale in neighbouring Kenya.

“The terrorists first travelled to Uganda, and they made their way to Kenya before they arrived at their final destination, South Ethiopia”

The captured militants were allegedly trained and armed by the regime in Asmara.

Ethiopia repeatedly accuses the Red Sea nation of deploying terrorists to destabilise nation, an allegation Eritrea denies.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war however the two neighbours fought a war during 1998-2000 over territorial disputes which killed over 70,000 people.

As their border dispute never settled the two countries remain at No war - No peace situation.

Both countries routinely trade accusations of arming and supporting one the others’ rebel group.

Ethiopia has often foiled Eritrea-backed attacks and have captured a number of terrorist groups while trying to sneak into the country

At a press conference with local journalists, Communication minister Getachew Reda today hinted that the Ethiopian government will consider actions to stop these unfolding Eritrean provocations.

Previously, Ethiopian forces have penetrated deep into Eritrean territories and attacked several military bases including those bases used by militants who are given sanctuary by Eritrea to carry out attacks against Ethiopian targets.



On Saturday May 7, 2016 the Bay Area Eritreans for Democratic Change (BAEDC) hosted a seminar in Oakland California that attracted many Eritreans. The essence of the seminar was to bring all Eritreans together to discuss and educate on topics that matter to all. This was a special tribute to Eritrea’s 25 years of Independence.

BAEDC Board invited speakers from all walks life of Eritreans, expertise on their respective field. The following were the topics and the presenters:

1.      Afar in Eritrea – by Ahmed Youssouf

Ahmed, an Afar activist, spoke in detail the essence of the Afar people’s struggle. He assured the audience that they are proud Eritreans but wanted to secure self governance and restoration of their culture. He completely rejected the notion of Ethiopian puppets when asked by an attendee. He said we don’t need to prove our identity. We are proud Eritreans and intend to play a pivotal role in development post PFDJ era.

2.      Information and Communication Technology – by Tewelde Stephanos

Technology guru in his own rights, Tewelde educated the audience in internet technology usage. He gave an insight on how the PFDJ junta uses technology in identifying threats. The audience stressed on the importance of training and in his caliber  to offer training sessions to the community. He assured them that he is ready to sacrifice his time.

3.      Eritrean Women’s Rights Issue – by Elsa Mesfun

A veteran fighter with Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and women’s rights activist, Elsa detailed her view on how to reverse course in Eritrea. Her view is to focus on women inside Eritrea for the gross oppression and abuse that has been heaped on them.

4.      Situation of Eritrean Refugees in Eastern Sudan – by Sabrina Jamil and Jamil Aman

Sabrina in her own right was the star of the day. This American born Eritrean young lady brought the audience in an emotional state with her Eastern Sudan trip story. Sabrina and her father Jamil travelled to Sudan to deliver donated medical supplies to Eritrean refugees. Her story was educational as well as sad to know the plight of our people. She is very committed to bring changes to the lives of those refugees. She is putting together a documentary film from her trip. She titled it “The Forgotten” and it will be released soon. The father/daughter team also shared with the audience their next plan to visit the Eritrean refugee camps in Ethiopia. With her charismatic and dynamic personality combined with broad coalition of like-minded youth, Sabrina could be instrumental in bringing a paradigm shift to the Eritrean journey for justice platform. 

5.      Mass Media and Millennium Goals – by Samuel N.

Samuel is a dynamic youth. He articulated the how print and digital media works and how PFDJ spin masters manipulate it to their own likings. When lies repeat themselves again and again, they create a perception.

6.      Eritrean Economy – by Sengal Woldetensae

The last presenter was Sengal, a brother of the veteran fighter Haile Woldetensae (aka Drue). Sengal, an economist by trade, knows his subject. He spoke about gross domestic product (GDP), growth, etc. in layman’s language. He articulated the gyration of GDP and growth due to gold mining. He also pointed out on how Eritrea is ranked amongst the poorest nations, but PFDJ keep painting it a rosy picture to deceive the people.

Three of the presenters (Ahmed, Elsa and Sengal) presented their topics remotely, via Skype. Audio visual was impeccable. After each presentation, ten minutes of questions and answers session was given. The audience were asking many questions proactively and the presenters gave them satisfying answers.

Overall, the conference was a half day event, but it was a gratifying event. The topics were very engaging and very interesting. The presenters were passionate about the topics they presented and kept the audience engaged. The mood was very inviting and very civil. This was a good way to celebrate Eritrean Independence. 

BAEDC board did a great job in putting the event together. They should be commended for a well planned conference. This conference should be used by all Eritreans justice seekers worldwide as a template.


uscirf 2016 annual report - EritreaThe US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on its 2016 Annual Report, recommends Eritrea to remain designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom violations.

By TesfaNews,

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its 2016 Annual Report on religious freedom violations in over 30 countries and its Eritrea report was hardly flattering.

The report reveals that the Eritrean government continues to repress religious freedom for unregistered, and in some cases registered, religious communities, particularly Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It also accuses the government for dominating the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church, the country’s largest Christian denomination, and suppresses the religious activities of Muslims, especially those opposed to the government-appointed head of the Muslim community.

In light of these violations, USCIRF again recommends in 2016 that Eritrea be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

Since 2004, USCIRF has recommended, and the State Department has designated, Eritrea as a CPC, most recently in July 2014.

U.S. Policy towards Eritrea

Relations between the United States and Eritrea remain poor. The U.S. government has long expressed concern about the Eritrean government’s human rights practices and support for Ethiopian, Somali, and other armed and rebel groups in the region.


The government of Eritrea expelled USAID in 2005, and U.S. programs in the country ended in fiscal year 2006. Eritrea receives no U.S. development, humanitarian, or security assistance. Since 2010, the government has refused to accredit a new U.S. ambassador to the country; in response the U.S. government revoked the credentials of the Eritrean ambassador to the United States.

U.S. government officials routinely raise religious freedom violations when speaking about human rights conditions in Eritrea.

The United States was a co-sponsor of a 2012 UN Human Rights Council resolution that successfully created the position of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

In July 2014, the United States supported the creation of a UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea to investigate systematic violations of human rights, recommend how to improve conditions and ensure accountability, and raise awareness of the situation in the country.

In 2015, the U.S. government supported the continuation of the COIE’s mandate for one additional year to determine if the Eritrean government’s actions constitute crimes against humanity.

In September 2004, the State Department designated Eritrea a CPC. When re-designating Eritrea in September 2005 and January 2009, the State Department announced the denial of commercial export to Eritrea of defense articles and services covered by the Arms Export Control Act, with some items exempted.

The Eritrean government subsequently intensified its repression of unregistered religious groups with a series of arrests and detentions of clergy and ordinary members of the affected groups.

The State Department most recently re-designated Eritrea a CPC in July 2014, and continued the presidential action of the arms embargo, although since 2011 this has been under the auspices of UN Security Council resolution 1907 (See below).

U.S.-Eritrean relations also are heavily influenced, often adversely, by strong U.S. ties with Ethiopia. Gaining independence in 1993, Eritrea fought a costly border war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000. The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and the now-defunct Organization of African Unity were formal witnesses to the 2000 accord ending that conflict.

However, Eritrean-Ethiopian relations remain tense due to Ethiopia’s refusal to permit demarcation of the boundary according to the Hague’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s 2002 decision.

The U.S. government views the commission’s decision as “final and binding” and expects both parties to comply.


U.S. policy toward Eritrea also is concentrated on U.S. concerns that the country’s activities in the region could destabilize the Horn of Africa. In December 2009, the United States joined a 13-member majority on the UN Security Council in adopting Resolution 1907, sanctioning Eritrea for supporting armed groups in Somalia and failing to withdraw its forces from the Eritrean-Djibouti border following clashes with Djibouti. The sanctions include an arms embargo, travel restrictions, and asset freezes on the Eritrean government’s political and military leaders, as well as other individuals designated by the Security Council’s Committee on Somalia Sanctions.

In April 2010, President Obama announced Executive Order 13536 blocking the property and property interests of several individuals for their financing of al-Shabaab in Somalia, including Yemane Ghebreab, presidential advisor and the former head of political affairs.

In December 2011, the United States voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 2023, which calls on UN member states to implement Resolution 1907’s sanctions and ensure that their dealings with Eritrea’s mining industry do not support activities that would destabilize the region.

In 2015, the U.S. government voted in the UN Security Council to retain an arms embargo on Eritrea and to renew for another year the mandate of its Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

USCIRF Recommendations

The U.S. government should press for immediate improvements to end religious freedom violations in Eritrea and raise concerns through bilateral and multilateral initiatives. In addition to recommending that the U.S. government should continue to designate Eritrea a CPC and maintaining the existing, ongoing arms embargo referenced in 22 CFR 126.1(a), USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government should:

• Continue to use bilateral and multilateral diplomatic channels to urge the government of Eritrea to:

> release unconditionally and immediately detainees held on account of their peaceful religious activities, including Orthodox Patriarch Antonios;

> end religious persecution of unregistered religious communities and register such groups; grant full citizenship rights to Jehovah’s Witnesses;

> provide for conscientious objection by law in compliance with international human rights standards; implement the Constitution of 1997;

> bring national laws and regulations, including registration requirements for religious communities, into compliance with international human rights standards;

> bring the conditions and treatment of prisoners in line with international standards;

> and extend an official invitation for unrestricted visits by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the International Red Cross;

• Ensure, if development assistance is to be resumed, that it is directed to programs that contribute directly to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law;

• Intensify international efforts to resolve the current impasse between Eritrea and Ethiopia regarding implementation of the boundary demarcation as determined by the “final and binding” decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission that was established following the 1998-2000 war;

• Encourage unofficial dialogue with Eritrean authorities on religious freedom issues by promoting a visit by U.S. and international religious leaders, and expand the use of educational and cultural exchanges, such as the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Program, and lectures by visiting American scholars and experts; and

• Work with other nations, especially those with mining interests in Eritrea and large Eritrean diaspora communities, to draw attention to religious freedom abuses in Eritrea and advocate for the unconditional and immediate release of detainees held on account of their peaceful religious activities, including Orthodox Patriarch Antonios.


On World Press Freedom Day, Index Youth Advisory Board calls for the release of imprisoned journalists in Eritrea and urges the government to end its persecution of media workers

3 May 2016


Mr Isaias Afewerki
President of Eritrea
Office of the President
PO Box 257
Asmara, Eritrea

Dear President Afewerki,

We, the Youth Advisory Board of Index on Censorship — a global free expression organisation — are writing to you to call for the immediate release of imprisoned journalists in Eritrea.

We condemn the brutality and ruthlessness with which your regime has gagged expression and assaulted the rights of its citizens to access information.

The very constitution on which your regime governs upholds the rights of all to freedom of conscience. Yet journalists are imprisoned and go missing at the hands of your government. Eritrea has been ranked last on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index for the past eight years. At least 15 journalists are currently detained and, out of 13 journalists incarcerated in 2001, only four remain alive today.

Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist, was arrested in 2001 and has since been held incommunicado and in solitary confinement without any charges or a verdict. He has not seen a lawyer or his family for 13 years. Eritrean authorities have ignored the appeals of the European Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and a lawsuit before a Swedish court.

Seyoum Tsehaye, imprisoned for writing an article that criticised your regime, also has not seen anyone from the outside world since 2001 — including his daughter, who was born soon after his arrest.

Seyoum is a journalist, photographer and prisoner of conscience who earned fame for capturing moving images of Eritrea’s war of independence. That war ended in Eritrea’s first multi-party elections in which your party was victorious, but the people of Eritrea have not seen elections or democracy in any meaningful form since. For speaking out and fighting for freedom to be restored to his country, Seyoum has paid a heavy price.

Eritreans have been denied their human right to freedom of expression. International agencies and human rights groups have alerted the world to arbitrary imprisonment and torture within Eritrea. The government’s attempts to silence critical voices and media workers must end. We urge you to release all journalists from prison and respect international human rights law by granting all Eritreans their right to freedom of expression.


The Index on Censorship Youth Advisory Board

This letter was written by the Index on Censorship Youth Advisory Board, a group of 16-25 year olds drawn from the global community and who were moved to write this letter following a meeting with 2016 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards finalist Vanessa Berhe.

At just 16 years old Berhe set up the organisation One Day Seyoum to campaign for the release of her uncle Seyoum Tsehaye, a journalist who has been imprisoned in Eritrea since 2001. Show your support for the campaign here.




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As politicians grapple with the migrant crisis experts say cash will only prop up the abusive regime – not stop the exodus

An Eritrean refugee waits for medical attention in ‘the Jungle’ camp in Calais.      
 An Eritrean refugee waits for medical attention in ‘the Jungle’ camp in Calais. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Thursday 28 April 2016 08.00 BST  Last modified on Thursday 28 April 2016 13.54 BST 

The migration crisis has dominated headlines and confounded politicians, but still very little is known about Eritrea, a country from which an estimated 5,000 people are fleeing each month.

Despite unaccompanied children from Eritrea being the largest group to seek refuge in the UK, and despite Eritreans being one of the largest groups entering Europe in 2015 after Afghans and Syrians, even the well-informed ask, why? Why Eritrea? What’s happening there?

It’s a pertinent question, particularly since the EU has agreed to give ‎€200m in aid to the Eritrean government. But sounds like a solution is, campaigners say, just going to exacerbate the problem. Because it is the Eritrean government itself which is accused of gross human rights abuses, with reports of routine extra-judicial executions, torture and arbitrary detention.

Many Eritreans claim to have spent more than 20 years in slave-like, unpaid national service. Give aid to the Eritrean regime and campaigners say that instead of halting the exodus, it will only make it worse.

“It feels like the oppressors are getting a reward from the European Union for oppressing their own people,” says Meron Estefanos, the director of the Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights. “There is no accountability. It seems to me that the EU is very naive.”

For Martin Plaut, former Africa editor for the BBC, the issue isn’t naiveté. He says the plan shows just how split the EU is over migration. “You have two completely different forces,” he explains. “You have the European parliament, which is made up of people with their own individual views and concerns about their constituents. Then you have the commission, which is really answerable to a council of ministers. They have a completely different set of agendas.” When it comes to Eritrea, he argues, those different agendas breed serious policy problems.

When announcing the new programme on behalf of the European Union, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said “... We have agreed to promote activities with concrete results for the [Eritrean] population, such as the creation of job opportunities and the improvement of living conditions,” but claimed at the same time the EU would insist on “full respect of human rights”.

Angela Merkel listens to African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the EU’s Africa summit on migration.

Angela Merkel listens to African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the EU’s summit on migration. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images 
But many remain sceptical. Former MEP Baroness Glenys Kinnock, now chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea, is robust in her criticism of the EU aid deal. “I’m horrified that, as Europeans, we’re offering any kind of support to President Isaias Afewerki,” she says.

“It will never reach the people and it will never improve their lives while he is there. It absolutely flies in the face of any claims we make as Europeans that we’re fighting for the rights and freedoms of the people of Eritrea

Abraham Zere, the director of PEN Eritrea in Exile who was forced to flee in 2011, says that many refugees living in the diaspora agree that the aid funding will do little more than prolong the life of dictatorship.

“The minimum services like electricity, water supply and food are lacking [there],” he explains. “Not because of lack of resources – but mainly through an utterly failed administration. Aid will not help the destitute population.”


This isn’t the first time that EU aid and development spending has been seen as controversial. Funding for Sudan – announced at the same time as the Eritrea grant – was deemed “almost satire” by Ahmed Adam from the Institute for African Development at Cornell University , for essentially rewarding a migrant-producing regime while claiming to help stem the flow. .

Similarly, after 12 years of sanctions the EU is once again giving development support to Zimbabwe, while last month the EU suspended direct funding for the government of Burundi after they were judged to have not done enough to stop the current conflict.

The MEP and chair of the Committee on Development, Linda McAvan, is also sceptical about the aid plan, but emphasises that no money has yet changed hands.

“We’ve made it clear that we are very sceptical, as a European Parliament, about funding the Eritrean government in any way. There has been talk of them getting rid of their national service, which isn’t a national service - it’s a lifetime conscription by the government - but it hasn’t happened,” she says.

Although many MEPs in the European parliament have strongly objected to the plan, they don’t have the power to block the proposed payments completely.

A doctor checks migrants aboard the Mare Nostrum after being rescued 25 miles off Italy.

A doctor checks migrants aboard the Mare Nostrum after being rescued 25 miles off Italy. Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/EPA 

Refugee policy

Kinnock, who is trying to raise a debate in the House of Lords on the subject, also points to the “clearly untenable and unreasonable” policy on Eritrean refugees.

Under the new EU migration deal, Eritreans – and other non-Syrians – reaching Greece are to be sent back to Turkey where the government have begun negotiations to readmit refugees and migrants with a host of countries, including Eritrea.

The UK government has also changed the country code guidance for Eritrea, so that while in the past 95% of Eritreans had their asylum applications accepted, it’s now down to 28%.

“As I’ve said before, [the EU migration deal] is life-threatening to them. They can’t go back,” says Kinnock. “I know families who have used every resource they’ve got to pay smugglers to take their children across the border into Sudan or Ethiopia, even though the government have a shoot to kill policy on those borders; they deserve our support, not increasing the threats to them.”
As warmer weather approaches, the Mediterranean migration route is expected to become more popular again - putting Eritreans and many others are increased risk as they try to reach Europe.

“I was speaking to UNHCR yesterday asking if there was any diminution in the 4,000-5,000 people fleeing Eritrea every month and they said no,” says Plaut.

Daniel Mekonnen, a prominent Eritrean human rights lawyer living in Geneva, warns that a time of increased urgency, the aid deal could severely discredit the EU. “By dealing with such a regime, in a strangely non-transparent and non-accountable manner, the EU risks the danger of portrayal as complicit in the perpetration of gross human rights violations, including a possible situation of crimes against humanity, as concluded in June 2015 by a UN commission of inquiry.”

The Eritrean regime, argues Mekonnen, is not going to change because of EU funding. “I liken the [government] with a habitual offender, a serial killer, or offender of the worst type, who has zero chance of rehabilitating,” he says.